For many companies, the COVID-19 has meant a real challenge as they were forced to adapt to new ways of working. From this pandemic, however, we can learn some valuable lessons to keep us productive during these tough times. Here are five things we can learn from and how to apply them to software development.
Change is part of every aspect of life, but few industries are subject to the amount of changes that make up a normal day in the software industry. While the pace and magnitude is different, knowing how to manage change is central to effective management of software development operations.
Software and IT solutions are crucial for every industry and due to the current global situation, we are seeing its importance in healthcare, especially. Understanding how the different parts of the world respond to the current COVID-19 virus can help us to learn how to manage change and avoid the pitfalls of crisis management. Every industry, including the software industry, needs these lessons to avoid and manage emergency situations effectively.
How can we, within the software industry, take advantage of the current situation we are facing worldwide? Here are 5 lessons we can learn from.
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1. The importance of collaboration
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 has required collaboration on an international scale. And not just from the decision-makers either; governments require the support of global health experts, scientists carrying out research, and most importantly, the general population to cooperate with recommendations.
In China, containing the spread of COVID-19 to current levels required the cooperation of various government and non-government departments. At the peak of the epidemic in February, China leveraged artificial intelligence, big data, whole-city sterilization, and total lockdown among other measures to bring the virus under control.
Similarly, the stakeholders of a project are pivotal to driving the process of software development, and their input and cooperation is invaluable for a process. Understanding how various aspects of business feed off each other – no industry thrives alone – should also inform business decision-making. Always keep in mind: this is a team effort where collaboration is key.
The magnitude of a crisis or project will determine the number of variables needed to bring it to successful completion. Bringing together all stakeholders and taking decisive and aggressive measures is sometimes required to manage difficult situations. Collaboration can also help you effectively manage valuable resources and implement multi-pronged strategies to nip a crisis in the bud.
2. Communication should be more effective than ever
Building on collaboration, effective and timely communication is the most essential tool to succeed, whether you are dealing with crises or working on software development projects. Effective communication, especially if companies have decided to follow the quarantine recommendations and are working from home, leverages as many channels as needed to ensure stakeholders have up-to-date information for decision-making or action.
Events related to COVID-19 unfolded with astonishing speed, and the big picture constantly changes. New infection epi-centers have come to the forefront globally, and countries where the virus was thought to be contained now register thousands of new cases. Therefore, a morning update may find itself overtaken by events in the afternoon.
When faced with a similar situation in the middle of a project, implement an update schedule that makes sense for you – whatever it takes to ensure all stakeholders are acting on the right information. This may be difficult to do in a crisis situation, understandably, but it is all the more crucial during this time. You can take staff away from non-essential duties and reassign them to maintaining information flow throughout the ecosystem for unified action.
Bear in mind that both employees and stakeholders will have access to different sources of information. However, this does not necessarily translate to informed-ness within the team; giving an updated summary of facts and their implications become then imperative.
3. Be proactive and get ready for unexpected events
The magnitude of a crisis is often determined by how fast decision-makers act in the early hours of the crisis or emergency situation. In Italy, for example, the leaders simply shut their borders and assumed they would remain safe from the virus. By the time they implemented in-country measures to prevent the spread of the virus, much of the population had moved around, spreading the virus to other regions of Italy.
Even in software development, you must think and act proactively rather than reactively. What does this look like? It is anticipating user needs and requirements and accounting for them in the research phase, before design and implementation. It is listening to potential problem areas and getting ahead of the curve before they reach crisis levels. It is disseminating information at appropriate intervals to ensure that you are in charge of the story without keeping stakeholders in the dark.
Part of research and strategy development should include planning for resource allocation in the event of different crises or situations. Who will be responsible for what? What are the response procedures? What will teams need and how will they get it? Answering these questions can ensure that you are using resources prudently and acting in the best interests of all stakeholders.
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4. Work with speed and accuracy
The first coronavirus patient was identified in China in November 2019. Within less than one week, Chinese authorities had sequenced the virus and sent the information to the WHO. Conversely, during the 2002/3 SARS epidemic, it took months to identify and sequence the virus, and years for HIV in the 1980s.
There is something to be said for technological advancements making processes easier and faster, which is why the software industry exists in the first place. Our job is to anticipate future needs and design now for what the world will look like then. Designing for the present is one way to ensure your obsolescence in our fast-paced world during this IT era.
Accuracy can only be achieved by leveraging data – the more data collected, the more accurate it is likely to be. For decision-making, strategy and change management, you need specific, reliable and accurate systems of data collection. You should have a team and software/hardware tools for analysis to derive trends and patterns within big data, which is where AI knowledge becomes handy.
5. Be strategic
Many times you may be faced with crises that you could not have anticipated, which is where strategy comes in. This comes in two facets: making the right decisions at the right time and place, and for the right people, and anticipating and planning for even the most unlikely of eventualities.
China took unprecedented and decisive action to bring the Coronavirus under control. While some of their methods can raise questions of privacy, their strategic response did help them to bring the virus under control – from thousands of new cases daily in February, by mid-March China reported less than 150 new cases.
It is crucial to correct and disseminate the right information for decision-making during software development projects. Executive leaders must account for all the stakeholders and consider that good decisions at the wrong time still become bad decisions. A good decision must be timely, resource-efficient, and all-inclusive.
Many more lessons can be gleaned from the global responses to COVID-19, especially since the situation continues to unfold in many countries. In summary, effective communication, proactivity, accurate research, and strategic decision-making are the most important keys to managing any project or emergency situation that you face during software development.
The importance of planning and readiness cannot be over-emphasized. It is far better to be prepared for a situation that never happens.
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